AUBURN | That'll leave a mark.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, in an open letter to supporters released Monday morning, said a recent story by Selena Roberts on the Roopstigo.com website included numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations.
"As the facts demonstrate, the article is clearly flawed," Jacobs wrote. "I want you to know that I will always act on the basis of facts. I will continue to fight for Auburn University, and I will continue to defend this great institution against such attacks."
Roberts' story, released April 3, began as a tale about former safety Mike McNeil and his legal entanglements related to a 2011 armed robbery. Roberts' piece also weaved in a series of alleged improprieties, many not involving McNeil, that various sources claimed to have witnessed during the 2010 season and into 2011.
Jacobs said the athletic department and Auburn University Internal Auditing, an entity independent of the athletic department, conducted parallel investigations into the allegations of academic fraud. Investigators from both entities were unable to find evidence of impropriety.
Specifically, Roberts' story indicated that former tailback Mike Dyer was ineligible for the 2010 BCS Championship because of academic missteps and that McNeil was kept eligible when an academic counselor spontaneously changed an F to a C in one class.
In his open letter, Jacobs says Dyer finished the Fall 2010 semester with a 2.8 grade-point average after taking a class load of 15 hours. That's nine more hours than required by NCAA regulations.
Jacobs also asserts that McNeil's grade change was bona fide after proper documentation was provided, which included excused absences related to medical issues.
"The independent review by Auburn University Internal Auditing showed that all institutional policies regarding grade changes for excused absences were followed," Jacobs wrote.
Here is a list of other items of contention and Auburn's official response:
** ALLEGATION: McNeil's mother wasn't contacted by Auburn regarding her son's arrest until 3:30 p.m. the next day.
AUBURN'S RESPONSE: "Phone records show that Athletics Department employees talked with a member of the family three times before 3:30 p.m. and once afterward on March 11, 2011. Calls were made at 9:01 a.m. (3 minutes), 11:34 a.m. (9 minutes), 1:07 p.m. (7 minutes), and 4:45 p.m. (10 minutes)."
** ALLEGATION: McNeil's mother said nobody from Auburn has talked with her family.
AUBURN'S RESPONSE: "Phone records show that Athletics Department employees talked with a member of the family on March 12, 2011. Calls were made at 11:41 a.m. (1 minute) and 11:44 a.m. (5 minutes). Athletics employees also talked to a member of the family on March 13, 2011. Calls were made at 12:07 p.m. (1 minute) and 8:54 p.m. (18 minutes). In addition, Auburn's team chaplain had continued conversations with a family member, including an 80-minute phone conversation on April 1, 2011."
** ALLEGATION: McNeil said he was given $500 to entertain defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick during an official visit to Auburn.
AUBURN'S RESPONSE: "Dre Kirkpatrick never attended Auburn on an official visit. After the article was published, Mr. Kirkpatrick publicly stated about his unofficial visit to Auburn, "Nobody gave me any money, and nobody spent any money on me that I know of. I don't know what they would have spent it on. We went to a party, but nobody was paying to get in there. We just walked in like everybody else seemed to be doing."
** ALLEGATION: Roberts says that players told her that "more than 40 players" tested positive for recreational drugs after the national championship.
AUBURN'S RESPONSE: "In a six-month period from August 2010 through February 2011, three football players tested positive for recreational drugs out of 231 tests performed. In the two months after the National Championship game, an additional seven football players tested positive for synthetic marijuana, prior to synthetic marijuana being added to Auburn's drug policy as a banned substance."
** ALLEGATION: McNeil claims that former coach Gene Chizik implemented no-tolerance rules against tattoos and dreadlocks, which he believes "was aimed at black guys."
AUBURN'S RESPONSE: "Numerous players on the 2010, 2001 and 2012 teams wore dreadlocks. Specifically from the 2010 team, they included Darvin Adams, T'Sharvan Bell, Josh Bynes, Kenneth Carter, AJ Greene, Byron Isom, Mike McNeil and Ryan Smith. None were made to cut them off."
** ALLEGATION: McNeil claims Auburn was cumbersome with regard to his effort to play elsewhere.
AUBURN'S RESPONSE: "After his arrest, Mr. McNeil did not properly withdraw from Auburn University, making him academically ineligible to transfer per NCAA rules. Auburn Athletics Compliance and the Office of General Counsel assisted Mr. McNeil in addressing those issues with the NCAA. Those efforts ultimately rendered him eligible to play at Livingstone College."